Paragraphs are usually the building blocks of larger formats like reports, articles, or essays.
Depending on their function in a piece of writing, paragraphs can have different purposes, and we can often identify their role by the way they are constructed. In general, paragraphs tend to have introductory sentences, supporting sentences, and concluding sentences. In this way, the structure of paragraphs resembles the structure of an essay.
Paragraphs are normally grouped into longer structures like articles, essays, or reports. In these larger structures, specific paragraphs have specific, specialized purposes or functions. When developing your ideas in written form, be aware of the specialized roles that your paragraphs play, and ensure that they are doing what you want them to do.
Watch this video or read the text below to learn about the types of paragraphs found in an academic essay. You can also download the Types of Paragraphs video transcript.
The Introductory Paragraph is sometimes viewed as a ‘hook’ or ‘grabber’. In part, its function is to engage readers and make them want to continue reading. It also introduces the main ideas to be supported in the essay and should present the thesis or claim— in other words, the writer’s position on a subject.
The Supporting Paragraphs do just what their name suggests: they support the thesis. That is a critically important job. Support paragraphs focus on a specific topic or point of support and develop that point of support by discussing and presenting reasons, evidence, and examples that are designed to convince us that the thesis is, in fact, worth considering.
Take time in developing your supporting paragraphs. They can make or break your essay. Use examples or evidence from credible sources to support and illustrate your points.
Finally, we have the Concluding Paragraph. This is the writer’s last chance to engage the reader. Typically, it will present the thesis and the supporting points for the final time in a mini-summary. The writer might want to bring things together at the end, maybe by stressing the importance or significance of your argument, by asking questions that keep your readers thinking, or by suggesting actions that they might take.
Watch this video or read the text below to learn about the elements of a paragraph. You can also download the Elements of a Paragraph video transcript.
A supporting paragraph in an academic essay should have five main elements. Learn more about each element below.
The topic sentence of a supporting paragraph should begin with your point. It should clearly state the topic of the paragraph and make a connection to the thesis. The topic sentence is usually at the beginning of the paragraph.
The point you made in the topic sentence should be further discussed in this section. The writer must make the significance of the issue clear to the reader.
The point made in the topic sentence and elaboration sections should be followed up with a specific supportive example. Readers tend to remember examples more because they illustrate the point clearly. Evidence is also another form of support for your paragraph.
This can include quotations or paraphrased passages with the proper documentation. When you use quotations or paraphrases, make sure to include an introduction to a quotation or paraphrase (often called a 'lead-in' phrase), the quotation/paraphrase, the citation for the sourced material, and an explanation of how the sourced material relates to your point. (Step 3 should be repeated for each quotation/paraphrase).
This sentence should restate the main point as a way to conclude the paragraph. Remember: The reader is not as aware of the ideas as the writer is, so it is the responsibility of the writer to keep the reader on track by restating the main idea from the beginning of the paragraph at the end.
Transitions are important parts of the essay. They help to guide the reader through the paragraphs and the essay, in general, in order to better understand the points and the overall argument. A transition doesn’t have to be a sentence or two. It can be a word, a phrase or even several sentences.
Transitional words and phrases help show relationships between ideas, create a logical flow, and create a sense of connectedness called Coherence. Transitional words and phrases can be used both within and between paragraphs to create a sense of flow.
Watch this video or read the text below to learn about transitional words and phrases, and how to use them in your writing. You can also download the transitional words and phrases video transcript.
Below, you will find examples of transitional words and phrases that you can use in your own writing. For a longer list of transition words and phrases, download the PDF 'Transitional Words and Phrasesopens in new window.